The New York City Fashion Industry, Female Fashion Editors, and their Influence on The Locusts Have No King

By Natasha Cucullo



“For all its sweetness and light, Locusts is an intelligent, hard-headed, clear-eyed examination of art, love, ruthlessness, infidelity, commerce, ambition, betrayal and destruction. It is, in short, a quintessential New York novel…The whole novel rings as true now as it must have more than a century ago” –Katie Christensen, Barnes and Noble Review


The Locusts Have No King by Dawn Powell is a satirical work of fiction documenting the lives of the sexually independent and aggressively business-oriented men and women of the New York publishing and performing worlds in the late 1940s. Filled with lust, love, confusion and betrayal, Powell narrates the professional, sexual and social experiences of the three main characters, Frederick Olliver, a writer for small literary journals waiting for his big break, Lyle Gaynor, “the better half of a married team of successful Broadway playwrights” (Morris, The New York Times), and Dodo Brennan, Frederick’s new love interest, and the plot unfolds as their affairs are pushed to the brink. Published in 1948, The Locusts Have No King is a production of its time; World War II opened up crucial opportunities for women in the workforce—and for women seeking executive positions, fashion and fashion-related industries (which include theater, publishing, art, and design) provided a space to take on greater responsibilities in management. Powell infuses her characters with the attitudes that women and men possessed in this changing social, political and economic milieu.

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